Philosophy > General AR Philosophy

What is a Trash Animal?

We are compiling an anthology of essays exploring maligned species and invite you to submit abstract proposals. Please see our website for updates or email us with any questions.

web link: maligned_species.html

What is a trash animal? Throughout known history, certain animals have been deemed worthless, destructive, threatening, and even ugly. They are despised as varmints, pests, nuisances, invasives, and exotics. Specific animals may come to mind-coyotes, carp, pigeons, rats, mosquitoes, and others. In Richard White's now classic essay "Animals and Enterprise," he distinguished between animals of leisure, animals of production, and animal enemies. In the latter category, we could easily place trash animals. In Wild Echoes, Charles Bergman argued that endangered animals have two faces, one symbolic and the other real. The same is true of trash animals (some now extinct or endangered), who carry the myths, rumors, and violence of human history, because they have historically resisted domestication, or because they have gone back and forth from domesticated to feral, or because they have been a hindrance to larger human efforts to reorganize landscape. Some trash animals thrived on the coattails of human imperialists; some thrived in spite of human resource management which sought to eradicate them. We feel that it is important to explore the complications, the problems that arise from equating animals with what we discard. Consider the following questions:

What are the implications of trash animals on the ways that we define, construct, perceive, and envision landscape? How are trash animals related to landscape? Ecology?

How do trash animals relate mythical places like Eden? To hybrid landscapes? To the post-industrial?

How is the construction of nature affected/deconstructed/rebuilt by trash animals? How about culture? What about wilderness or home?

How is the idea of change addressed by trash animals? Do they help us make meaning of transience and impermanence?

If trash signifies cultural value, what are the boundaries of this value?

Do trash animals address contemporary cultural/environmental problems/issues/dilemmas?

What do trash animals mean when it comes to human/nonhuman engagement-management, control, perception, welfare, and reclamation. What do trash animals reveal about human caused eco-disasters?

Is there a limit to human prejudice when animals can cause ecological harm? Can human values-good, bad, or mixed-be justified when applied to animals? Should human values matter? When are conflicts with trash animals based on mere prejudice and myth, and when are conflicts unavoidable?

Where does this knowledge come together, where does it/should it take us?

Do you find these questions interesting? Worth writing about? We are currently preparing to compile a book of essays that delve into the underworld, the scum-sucking lowlands of the animal kingdom (if there indeed is such a thing), into those unprivileged spaces, the post-industrial, the less-than-pristine, and consider the meanings of trash animals in our lives.

We invite you to submit essays (narrative academic) that demonstrate an engagement with a trash animal (only one please) and its landscape, explores biology/science-the real biological animal, treats culture and history (development of the animal's status amidst illuminating personal and social reflection), and performs some defining, tinkering, embracing, or rejecting the various cultural interpretations of the trash animal. Finally and most importantly, we want to see hope. Instead of endless cultural deconstruction (which would be easy), we want this book to build something meaningful for the future.

Guidelines for submission:

1. typed, DS, 12-pt. font, 2 inch margins, 8.5 x 11 paper
2. length: 1,000 to 8,000 words
3. title page with author's name and contact information
4. essay pages should have title in footer or header next to page numbers
5. electronic submissions preferred, as an attached document in Word2000 or more recent edition
6. paper submissions by mail should include 2 copies of essay and SASE; manuscripts will be recycled
Deadline for abstracts: 4pm, Monday, October 3, 2005 (Pacific Time Zone)

Deadline for approved essays: 4pm, Wednesday, March 1, 2006 (Pacific Time Zone)

Submit essays and questions to:


Kelsi Nagy & Phillip Johnson, Editors
Department of English/098
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, Nevada 89557

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